Conversion of Parliamentarism to

Social Fascism:

An Indian Experience


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Lessons from European Social Democracy

To conclude, the literature and activities of the CPM, CPI and other parliamentary Marxists in India, remind us of the disastrous role of the Austrian Social Democratic Party led by Bauer in 1933.

In Austria, the Social Democratic Party of Bauer had a considerable following among workers and the other toiling classes. This party even controlled the Vienna municipality and sent a good number of its member to parliament.. In March 1933 when the reactionary government of Dollfus unleashed its armed attacks on the social democratic party, the workers and other toiling people, the social democratic party, pinning faith on the parliamentary system betrayed the fighting workers who offered resistance. The reactionary government attack ultimately caught or sent to the gallows many of its leaders. The revisionist leader Bauer, who was spared, wrote later: "But we shrank back dismayed from the battle. We still believed that we should be able to reach a peaceful settlement by negotiation".

However, the Indian parliamentary Marxists like the CPM, CPI, etc. are far worse than the Austrian social democrats. While a section of the Austrian leaders of middle ranks thought of resistance, Indian ‘Marxists’ of the parliamentary fold have made ‘resistance’ a taboo word, ‘militant movement’ an unspeakable adventurous saying. The people who avoid the responsibility of arming the masses in an excellent revolutionary situation born out of the country’s acute economic crisis and the consequent passing the excruciating burdens onto the backs of the masses, are in fact misleading the revolutionary toilers in India. They actually create a smokescreen losing faith in the monumental potentials of resistance and thus become protagonists of spontaneity crying a halt to conscious leadership committed to developing resistance struggles. In what follows is an excerpt from John Gunther’s book Inside Europe Today198

"As the Nazis in Germany tried to foist on the world the notion that they saved the country from Marxism, so did Dollfuss Heimwelr- clerical apologists announc that they used field artillery to kill women and children in residential buildings in order to crush ‘Bolshevik insurrection’ on 12 February. The reality was a cold-blooded Fascist Coup d’etat. The government charged Dr. Otto Bauer and Col. Julius Deutch, the two leading socialists, with being Bolsheviks. The fact was that their brand of social democracy saved Austria from Bolshevism in 1919 …. The government alleged that members of the Socialist Schutzbund possess arms. They did indeed – arms which the government itself gave them…. as a defensive measure against Yugoslavia during a frontier crisis in 1920.

….. The socialists wrote their doom, not by aggression, but by temporasing, by seeking compromise…. The battle in Vienna lasted four days, and in the provinces five or six. Almost a thousand men, women, and children were killed. Nine Socialist leaders, including one man seriously wounded, and dragged to the gallows from a stretcher, were hanged.

Otto Bauer was the brains of the social democratic party. Socialism lost out in Austria because of its decency. The socialists

hated bloodshed and violence, they could not believe that their enemies were capable of ruthlessness and treachery….. As democrats, they believed in the tolerant rule of the majority …… Orthodox Second International Socialism was, in 1934, as old-fashioned as horse-cars. Flattened between the opposites of Fascism and communism, the socialists became, instead of a revolutionary party, a party of the middle. They represented workers in work; and after some years of comfortable, almost bourgeois living in the Engels Hof they lost a good deal of revolutionary fervour; they were not so anxious as before to man the barricades…. Back in 1919 they had a chance to acquire the Alpine Montangesells chaft, the pivot of Austrian industry; they let it go, and instead built lovely swimming-pools and gardens for Vienna kiddies. The socialists-led Vienna municipality owned about thirty-five percent of the land of Vienna; it employed fifty-four thousand people and was by far the largest enterprise in Central Europe; from 1923 to 1929 it spent about £ 22,000,000 on housing and similar projects…. It collected above £ 50,000,000 in taxes per year, and it owned the municipal gas works, the electrical plant, the street-cars and sub-ways and omnibuses, the slaughter-houses and the public baths, a cemetery, a brewery, a bakery, and a big department store. All this went into government hands, once Fascism struck arresting and retrenching thousands. Finally the socialists announced the four things which would cause a general strike: (1) imposition on Austria of a Fascist constitution, (2) installation of a government commissioner in Vienna, (3) dissolution of the social democratic party, (4) dissolution of the trade unions.

What happened then was one of the ghastliest muddles in revolutionary history. A vote to call a general strike was carried by a majority of only one. Meanwhile, the workers in the powerful electrical union, inflamed, infuriated, preferring death by slow suffocation, had without orders- already struck. But no contact had been established between the electrical workers and the building, where the committee met. The call for general strike was never promulgated. The government did what any hard-boiled government would do. Conveniently the whole leadership of the party, Bauer and Deutsch excepted, were in the lion’s den and the authorities simply arrested the lot. Anticipating this the party had appointed second and third men for each post; they were all arrested too.

The fighting that followed was heartbreaking. The lack of organization was pitiful. Bauer, a stern disciplinarian, had ossified the party, so that young men eager to go on the streets obediently waited all day Monday and till Tuesday expecting orders to fight. The orders never came; the young men then began shooting and were slaughtered…. Most of the workers did not know where their arms were hidden. One band of three hundred Schulzunders never received arms because the second-in-command refused to disclose their location without orders from above.

One can say what one likes about the leadership of the party. But about the valiant courage of the men there can be no doubt. It took a modern army of nineteen thousand field artillery, four whole days to crush the resistance of perhaps thousand forlorn and desperate Schuzbunders, their backs to the wall or their necks in the noose. It was a hopeless fight, but it was magnificent. The workers of the world will never forget the February heroism of the Vienna proletariat."

(Sanbad Pratidin, 12 July, 2003)

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